Mark’s parents are from Colombia, but he was born in London. I met him through Couch Surfing and he was available to host me, but I had already agreed to stay with Alain. So I had proposed to meet him, so that he could show me the sights of London. Maybe we can arrange to stay together, when I come back from the United States. When he asked me to have a drink in Brick Lane: -(There are so many nice bars! ) I declined the proposal because he wanted us to eat together, too. Unfortunately I have already arranged with Alain that we have dinner together. So we take a coffee to Costa, a coffee chain which English people think it’s Italian, but actually usually works Italians, and we sip as we go to the neighbourhood called WALL.
It’s an interesting neighbourhood because here you can see the unique contrast of the city: the ruins of the old Roman walls of Londinium and the skyscrapers of the City. In fact, the wall is what remains of the Roman colonization, in London. I didn’t know, that in London there were remains, that were so old. I remember Bath, where you will find just the Roman Baths and Chester, a city near Manchester that even there, there are Roman remains. I read with interest the story: the walls were built with stones from Maidstone, which is in the region of Kent, and transported by boats. Approximately 1,300 trips were needed to transport all the stones, needed for the construction of the wall. It was to carry something like 85,000 tons of stones from an area far enough away for transport, at the time. Once built, the walls covered an area of about 130 hectares. The walls had doors that showed the way outside to the important Roman roads, that led to other cities of the country.
The original list of ports are numbered clockwise from Ludgate and continued with Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate. Moorgate, between Cripplegate and Bishopsgate, was built later – in the Middle Ages – and brought the number of ports in the standard form, to seven; as mentioned in the Londoners traditions and literature. Some of the doors, although it has been many centuries ago, gave the name to the place
where they were. Following the expansion of the city, in the medieval period, the number of ports was increased in order to adapt to the increasing maritime traffic. The walls remained in use for over 1,000 years. They served to defend London from the incursions of the Saxons in 457. In medieval times, they were rebuilt, adding new bastions and new doors. Only between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were they almost demolished but large portions of them were joined to the other buildings. The strength of these walls was demonstrated by the bombings during World War II. Among the rubble of buildings destroyed by bombing, the ruins that had survived best were the fragments of the Roman walls. Today, there are a few remaining fragments, that can be seen near the Museum of London, Barbican Estate and around the Tower Hill.
As I finish reading the historical information on the buildings of my ancestors, Mark takes me to a shopping centre, opened a few months ago; that is located in front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Entering, we immediately take the glass elevator and I see clearly the colonnade, then the dome in front of me, and finally up to the rooftop of the building. While business men enjoy a drink at the bar, we go beyond the terrace, where, despite the wind, there are some couples picnicking in front of a beautiful landscape, where you can see a view of London. I can see in the distance the London Eye, Big Ben, and other London famous land marks, while on the other hand, there is an imposing sky-scraper unknown to me.
I ask Mark what it is and he replies that it is “The Shard” a skyscraper of eighty floors, 309.6 metres high, and it will be the tallest building in Europe, ten metres more than the tallest tower in the City of Capitals complex in Moscow. According to speculation, the opening will be on July 5, just when I return to London! However, I think that although it is the tallest skyscraper in Europe, it is incomparable to those of the United States or Asia, or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which is the tallest skyscraper in the world with its 830 metres of height. However, it is likely, that the record of The Shard in Europe will not last long, because by the end of the year, there could be a higher tower completed in Moscow – where were all the highest skyscrapers in Europe since 2005 – the Mercury City Tower, The Shard of which exceed twenty meters. Mark explained to me that the architect who designed the Shard was an Italian, Renzo Piano, in collaboration with Richard Rogers, the designer of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Piano wanted, on the outside, a glass coating, that was especially reflective. The originally planned height has been lowered by about one-third due to concerns expressed by the institution of The British Civil Aviation, who feared that the planes could collide with it. Inside there will be a 5-star hotel with over 200 rooms, three floors of restaurants and offices. In the upper floors there will be ten luxury apartments, each of which occupies one or two floors, but also a spacious panoramic 360 ° view, open to the public, to try to contain the criticism that it is a commercial operation intended only for the super-rich and without any positive benefits for the population. The skyscraper is located just above the London Bridge station, in central London, and plans were presented for the first time in 2000 by the manufacturer Irvine Sellar. Sellar had purchased the land near London Bridge in 1998, on which stood then a 24-storey building of the seventies, called Southwark Towers. However, the height initially announced for the new skyscraper was 1,400 feet or 420 meters. Among the information that I can pick up, I enjoy the twilight of a London unknown to me, even though we had lived there for several months, four years ago.
The warmth of the last sun rays make me homesick and my heart is really wasted having to share a scene so beautiful with someone I just met. With Fredrick it was different, although he was not my boy friend , he is a good friend, and I’m happy to have shared the trip to Scandinavia with him. I have no regrets that we shared this trip with possible love, because in any case for me, Fredrick is a special person. In this case, although Mark is a kind and nice boy, I feel that the air of London is different from that of Scandinavia. Even looking at those couples, embracing dreamily behind us, it’s not easy! We remain silent for a while, he also enjoys the landscape; maybe he thinks the same things as me. I remember the boy that I dated in Rome, now I would liked to have had him here with me; being able to embrace under a blanket, shelter from the cold, enjoying the last sun rays, until the dark comes, and then we realize, because of the cold, it’s time to get off the ground floor. I try to hide my sadness with Mark, forcing a smile and take advantage of those last moments of light, to take some pictures. As we go down with the glass elevator, the imposing cathedral is back in to view.
Mark feels that the ‘air’ is a bit sad and he asks me if something happened. I try to shilly-shally and with a smile I ask him, what do we do for the next stage.